8 December 2011 - Geneva - The Stop TB Partnership and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) hosted a meeting in Geneva this week of nine celebrities who are lending their images and voices to the fight against TB in Georgia, Ghana, Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa and Sudan. These actors, film-makers and media stars are helping to frame an initiative aimed at enhancing the impact of national TB ambassadors. The Lilly MDR-TB Partnership and Kempinski Hotels are provided support for the event.
At a workshop on Monday, the ambassadors shared their experiences and their views on what it takes to be a strong national TB champion. All agreed that public reputation, charisma, good connections at all levels and a strong interest and belief in the cause of TB are crucial characteristics. They viewed their role as raising awareness about TB at all levels, with special sensitivity to the fact that many people with TB belong to marginalized groups - but also that the disease has a marginalizing impact on anyone affected by it.
"The workshop made me feel challenged - because I could see how hard the other national TB champions are working. But in a great way, it gave me a boost of energy for my own work on TB," said Obour, a beloved pop star and Ghana's national TB ambassador.
Yesterday the celebrities briefed members of the Regional Government of Lombardy in Milan about the urgent need for continued financial support for the global fight against TB. Their journey continued to Turin, where they visited a TB treatment programme - part of the Imp.Ac.T project - which is run by the NGO Gruppo Abele with close links to the Italian Red Cross. The project seeks to increase TB and HIV testing among migrants, especially drug users.
"This visit was an eye-opener for me," said Gerry Elsdon, who serves both as national TB ambassador in South Africa and as a global ambassador for the IFRC. "Many of us in this group of national champions come from countries where TB is a huge problem. I was stunned to see first hand that here in Europe, people seem to think TB is extinct - while we are battling it every day."